Saturday, October 29, 2011

How I Accidentally Interviewed Matt Damon for ACCESS HOLLYWOOD

In 2002, I went to a screening of The Bourne Identity attended by Matt Damon at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco, California.

After the screening, Matt sat on stage and answered questions from the audience, which seemed to be mostly students in acting school.

I'd just finished co-writing my first screenplay, Inclusion, a supernatural thriller set in Paris, with my friend, Isis Bouhraoua, an American who grew up in France. So, I stepped up to the microphone and asked Matt what was the best and worst thing about filming The Bourne Identity in France.

He said it was France, so it was gorgeous, and it was France, where no one seemed to care they were making a movie on a tight timeline, so there were delays in acquiring permits, etc.

After the Q & A period, my friends and I wandered up to the stage, where Matt was talking to audience  members. My friend Michael gave Matt his camera and asked that he take our photo.

That's the one you see here.

The next day at work, I was very surprised when co-workers and vendors across the United States called me to say that they'd seen me on ACCESS HOLLYWOOD interviewing Matt on his latest film.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


After months of rewrites, a great script read with friends, family, actors and film industry pros, and a final round of rewrites after receiving notes from lots and lots of people, I recently completed co-writing a feature-length, sci-fi/family adventure script, whose journey around Hollywood I'll describe in a future post.

I'm excited to return my attention to an unproduced Twilight Zone spec script I wrote a few years back. Its title is Go Back. I wrote it to demonstrate I could follow hour-long television formating. Now, I'm going to rewrite it as a feature-length supernatural thriller.

The television script never sold but did serve as an excellent calling card, getting the attention of producer Justin Wicker while he was working at SONY Television under president Steve Mosko. Justin and I co-wrote the pilot and bible to a children's half-hour animation series, which hasn't sold...yet.

I like to write a script while listening to one song on repeat. The song typically finds me while I'm hashing out the outline of the script.

I wrote the Twilight Zone version of Go Back while listening to Beck's "Deadweight."

I'm writing the feature-length version to Len's "Steal My Sunshine."

Two very different songs, I know, but both fit the story.

Stay tuned for news on the script's progress.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Content Marketing Online

In 2004, I started auctioning on eBay, at first specializing in first-edition books and out-of-print CD's. A few years later, I opened an eBay Store (which sells items at fixed prices) and honed my focus to what most interested me: magazines tuned to celebrities, fashion, GLBT themes and vintage beefcake.

Early on, I realized I needed to make my listings stand out online.

Even when eBay supplies a stock image for an item I want to list, I take my own photograph.

I carefully detail the contents of each item and note its condition: BRAND NEW, LIKE NEW, VERY GOOD, etc.

My eBay Store soon did well enough to enable me to open an online store,

After years of collecting vintage beefcake photographs, I turned to Yahoo! in October, 2007 to start a group, where I could share my images with other enthusiasts of male bodybuilders and physique models from the Golden Age of Bodybuilding. The group links back to my online store.

In January, 2008, I started the blog Mike and Phil on the Hill. It is not only a journal on my passion – our gardens in San Francisco, California – but also links readers to my eBay and online stores.

In January, 2009, I started the blog Male Models Vintage Beefcake to feature images of my favorite vintage beefcake photographers and models. Not surprisingly, this blog proved to be the most powerful conduit for customers interested in purchasing vintage beefcake from me.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of your website or web page in search engines' results through search results you don't pay search engines to artificially achieve for you. SEO is important because the higher your website or page appears in someone's search result list, the more likely that person will click on your site or page.

In my eBay and online stores, I perform SEO every time —

– I create and name the photograph of an item (Search engines read the names you give your photographs.),
– I describe in detail each item, and
– I do not discuss anything irrelevant to the item for sale. I've seen other eBayers add words like "Marilyn Monroe" or "Disney" to their listings on irrelevant items such as auto parts. People use this tactic, known as "keyword stuffing," so that their items turn up in a greater number of search results. In the end, I believe this damages their brand, which is their reputation, as frustrated customers repeatedly find these irrelevant items in their search result list.

Another SEO technique I've strongly employed is backlinking. Because I want to bring customers to my eBay and online stores, I have links to these stores on my Yahoo! group and blogs, which I in turn heavily promote in order to create enough interest from other sites that they link directly to my Yahoo! group and blogs. This steady increase in backlinking – or the number of inbound links – improves the visibility of my sites in search engines' results.

Excellent examples of backlinking to the blog Male Models Vintage Beefcake can be seen in Bradford Shellhammer's post on the Sundance Channel's website as well as in Alfred Hickling's article about Tom of Finland on the, in which he links to the blog with the word, "beefcake."

To date, I've created one ad banner (as seen at the bottom of this blog) that links consumers to my online store. So, when I write I'm heavily promoting my Yahoo! group and blogs, I don't mean I'm using ad banners to advertise on others' sites. Instead, I mean I am generating content for my Yahoo! group and blogs, which is the marketing strategy known as "content marketing."

It is the way I expand my brand – my reputation – as a knowledgeable resource on gardening in San Francisco, California and on the photographers and models of vintage beefcake. It also makes my brand more visible online and, ultimately, leads to more sales.

Whenever someone confides to me they want to sell on eBay but aren't sure how or even what to sell, I tell that person to sell items they are excited to invest a lot of time and energy into learning about, that they will enjoy having around their home until they are sold, and for which they will find pleasure in becoming an expert and consultant for others.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Smalltown Boy" by Jimmy Somerville (Bronski Beat)

It is a bit shocking how far away 1984 is from today. It took nearly thirty years for a handful of states to legalize gay marriage and for the United States government to permit gay men and Lesbians to serve openly in its military.

I had recently graduated from high school, when I first saw Jimmy Somerville (of Bronski Beat) sing this song on MTV. Nothing before had come closer to telling the story of my life growing up in a small town in Maryland.

Only a few years later, I returned to San Francisco, California, where I was born.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Than a Screenwriter

I am more than a screenwriter.

I began writing short stories in the fourth grade. My first story (which I carefully illustrated and bound with red yarn) was about a group of shipwrecked friends trying to escape a magical world hidden inside an iceberg.

I have always been drawn to stories involving magic, mythic beings and heroes who must navigate alien worlds to survive and, once transformed by their adventures, often find the people around them have also changed.

My all-time favorite film is Jean Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast), which was released in 1946.

It is everything I crave from film – from great storytelling.

I started screenwriting in 2001 and learned a lot online, most notably from Project Greenlight, which was a television contest with extensive online forums. It was produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Sean Bailey (a television and film producer now the President of Production at Disney) and Chris Moore (a film producer whose biggest hit to date is the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting).

For a year or so, I spent a great deal of my spare time commiserating with other newbie screenwriters on the hardships of learning our craft. I pursued several pros I suspect PGL paid to patiently share their knowledge with even the most recalcitrant of us newbies on the forums. And I read a lot of scripts from first-time writers and compared them to those of classics like Bladerunner and Chinatown.

I learned how to write in the proper script format and, most importantly, honed my writing until my voice was my own: concise, a bit ironic and more than a little darkly comedic.